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Agency officials have listed what types of fish are best for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Getty Images
  • The FDA has updated its guidelines on fish for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Agency officials say fish provides women with protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamins B-12 and D.
  • They recommend women eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury per week.
  • Salmon, sardines, lake trout, and canned tuna are among the recommendations.

If you’re pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or are a nursing mother, some federal officials have some advice for you.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just updated its guidelines about eating fish.

Why? The agency says women in this group seem to be missing out on a good thing.

“Fish and shellfish are an important part of a well-rounded diet. However, we know many consumers worry about mercury in fish and choose to limit or avoid fish because of this concern,” said Susan Mayne, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in a news release.

“In fact, we have seen that women in the U.S. who are pregnant are consuming far less than the recommended amount of seafood,” she added.

The agency says a fish diet provides protein, healthy omega-3 fats, and more of vitamins B-12 and D than any other type of food. Seafood also contains iron and important minerals such as selenium, zinc, and iodine.

“Our goal is to make sure Americans are equipped with this knowledge so that they can reap the benefits of eating fish, while choosing types of fish that are safe for them and their families to eat,” Mayne said.

FDA officials have broken down their advice on fish into a chart.

It helps you choose what fish to eat and how often to eat them, based on their mercury levels.

The agency recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding eat between 8 and 12 ounces of a variety of seafood from choices that are low in mercury a week.

It describes a serving for an adult as 4 ounces, about the size of your palm.

It lists the fish that are the best choices, those that are good choices, and the fish you should avoid because of their mercury content.

“This is a good first step to encouraging pregnant moms to eat more seafood for the health of moms and their babies,” Linda Cornish, president of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, told Healthline.

Her organization is a nonprofit working to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of seafood.

“We would like to see more messages around the critical health benefits for eating seafood for neurocognitive development for the growing baby,” Cornish added.

“There is a danger of having too much high-mercury seafood. That’s because excess mercury can negatively impact brain health,” Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline.

“However, reports have shown that pregnant women can eat more fish per week than they think. Some studies show that exposure to small amounts of mercury may be outweighed by the overall benefits of fish consumption,” Kirkpatrick added.

Studies show that 8 to 12 ounces of fish per week help with fetal growth and development. This is particularly true for fatty fish,” Kirkpatrick explained.

“Other studies have found that having adequate low-level mercury fish every week may help reduce the risk of ADHD symptoms,” she added.

“I advise my pregnant patients to choose high-quality fatty fish as their best bet, while keeping the mercury exposure low. These include wild salmon, sardines, and lake trout as well as canned tuna,” Kirkpatrick said. “I suggest that they avoid large amounts of high-mercury fish, like swordfish, mackerel, and fresh tuna, while always avoiding raw tuna as found in sushi.”

If you’re looking for more healthy and tasty ways to get fish into your diet, the Seafood Nutrition Partnership’s website has dozens of recipes.